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Fabric and art

Two artists currently exhibiting work in Ashland show — just how differently fabric can be used in art. Portland artist Candace — Coleman's fabric collages at The Living Gallery are a joyous celebration — of bold colors.

Ashland's own Ellen Mueller has created elegantly subdued — works born out of her feelings of loss over her daughter's departure for — college back East. The pieces are part of a stunning group exhibition — at Davis and Cline this month focused on diffusion and light.

Both artists sewed as children, with Coleman going on — to become a tapestry weaver and Mueller attending the prestigious Parson's — School of Design before leaving the world of fashion to become a fine — artist.

Coleman's wall hangings are constructed of fabrics that — she dyes herself to create a palette of fuchsia, magenta, maroon, sunflower — yellows and oranges, Caribbean blue, lavender and purple. Most of the — fabrics are dyed two to four times to create variation and layers of color.

"The colors available to me are constantly changing. That — means my work is always changing," Coleman said. "Color is really seductive — to me."

She rips the fabric along the natural thread lines to — create squares and rectangles, which she arranges and rearranges before — stitching down in overlapping and multi-layered compositions.

Mueller's work is multi-layered as well, but slowly reveals — its riches to viewers.

She drapes sheer fabric in simple folds or delicate ripples — on a ground with subtly colored paper or graphite pencil drawings. A sheet — of frosted Mylar placed over the fabric softly obscures the image beneath. — The glowing, diffuse effect is similar to a wax coating over a painting.

Drawing with colored pencils of cream and palest pink, — yellow or green on the Mylar, Mueller highlights folds and other details — beneath the surface.

She turned to the use of fabric after years of exposure — to paints and solvents left her allergic to those traditional artistic — tools. The sense of loss over her inability to use the media with which — she is so skilled was later compounded when her daughter left home.

As most mothers know, what is rather dismissively called — "empty-nest syndrome" can feel like a divorce and a job loss all at once.

"I have felt so insecure and almost stymied," Mueller — said. "What is my next step in life? I put so much into it. My job was — so important and then it was gone - just like that."

The next step Mueller has taken has resulted in pieces — that will reward viewers who take time out of their rushed lives to contemplate — these beautiful, meditative creations.

The Living Gallery, 20 S. First St., will feature Coleman's — fabric collages through April 15.

Mueller's pieces will be on display at Davis & Cline Gallery — 525, 525 A St., through March 26.